Tuesday, January 27, 2009

You CAN teach an old dog new tricks...

Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? If the ‘old dog’ in question is Nipper, age-old emblem of iconic music retailer HMV, then we’re about to be proved wrong in spectacular fashion.

HMV recently announced its expansion into the live music market – an industry that’s worth a reported £1bn. The retailer’s 50% share in 11 Mama-owned music venues will result in famous live venues such as the Hammersmith Apollo renamed with the company’s letters prefixed in blazingly branded HMV pink.

Chief Executive Simon Fox has stated that the physical music market is changing (no prizes for stating the bleeding obvious) and that by purchasing a piece of the live music market, HMV will be able to attract a younger demographic and build relationships with artists and fans. Under the surface however, this move is much more than an extended brand-building exercise. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2009/jan/14/hmv-enters-live-music-market)

The retail industry is experiencing unprecedented challenges and HMV’s move to secure alternative revenue streams must surely be recognised for the astute piece of commercial thinking that it is.

Earning money from live gigs and events is an extremely shrewd move and could ultimately see HMV come out of this recession even stronger than when it went in. Whilst revenue from live events and CD sales should combine nicely to ensure HMV’s economic security during these challenging economic conditions, the long-term branding benefits could prove very interesting indeed.

So can you teach an old dog new tricks? To quote another well-known phrase, ‘fortune favours the brave’ and HMV have clearly made a bold move launching into the live music environment. Bob Dylan sings that ‘The times they are a changing’ and in order to survive in today’s uncertain market, companies are going to have to change with it – well done HMV.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Racist Royals? Bigoted Brands?

So once again, a Royal is up on the front pages of daily rags nationwide for making a seemingly inappropriate remark to a chum of ethnic origin. No, for once it’s not Prince Philip, but his third-in-line-to-the-throne grandson, King of the lads’ mags and loveable rapscallion, Prince Harry.

Whilst I don’t wish to plough precious time and energy into discussing whether the alleged ‘term of affection’ is appropriate or not (although this all smacks of ‘breeze in a thimble’ as opposed to storm in a teacup), bigger issues are once again brought firmly into the centre of public debate, including those in the recruitment sector.

A recent undercover investigation carried out by BBC One’s ‘Inside Out West’ programme discovered that out of 30 recruitment agencies contacted, 25 readily agreed to only send white applicants along for a fictional job as a receptionist. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/7826077.stm)

This is quite frankly, a startling revelation and a wake-up call to all those in the recruitment industry. How far is the average recruiter prepared to go to fill a brief? Does the buck stop with the bigoted brands issuing these sorts of requests, or are recruiters continuing this prejudiced chain when complying to these sorts of unethical (not to mention illegal) requests?

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Brands vs Products

As the recession swallows up more and more of our High Street’s iconic retailers, marketers across the land must be wondering what will be left to market if the credit crunch continues its greedy gorge on the UK’s various retailers.

With a worrying casualty list that now includes such famous names as Woolworths, Zavvi, Wedgwood and Adams, competition on the British retail scene is looking increasingly dilapidated and frightfully, bleaker than the British rail network – ouch. As more and more iconic brand names fall victim to the effects of the Credit Crunch (an overused phrase that’s a much more worthy candidate for redundancy than so many of Britain’s unfortunate workers) what will marketers end up actually marketing?

The past fifty years has seen the marketing industry increasingly advertising brands as ‘lifestyle choices’ and ‘consumer identities’, reflecting a real shift from the old days of actually advertising a product – I know, what a strange concept! Brand exercises such as sponsorship, product placement, endorsement and branded events all focused on the brand ‘as brand’ as opposed to a vehicle for selling products belonging to that brand – just look back to the nineties’ marketing strategies of behemoth global corporations such as Nike and Hilfiger.

So what does 2009 have in store for brand marketing? As more brand names sink reluctantly into dreaded administration, market diversity is decreasing and the Tesco’s of this world must be rubbing their hands in glee as they pocket a few more monopoly cards.

OK, so maybe the situation isn’t quite as dire as I’m making out, however it really is food for thought – will we see a return to marketers marketing products once again? Will companies utilise marketing resource to put money in their pockets, rather than associate themselves with a particular lifestyle choice? What do you think?

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